top of page

The strange world of Jerusalem Syndrome


There are some weird diseases. But Jerusalem syndrome, to the tune of about 50 cases a year, might just take the cake.

What is Jerusalem syndrome? 

It only happens to tourists visiting Jerusalem (surprise surprise) for the first time. Usually, this tourist is deeply religious (subscribing to one of the 3 Abrahamic religions) and had been looking forward to getting to Jerusalem for a long time, and views Jerusalem as the holy city. 

Once they get to Jerusalem and they take a look at the city, they realise that part of it is tremendous (I'm not religious but Jerusalem is a city with presence). But there's another side to Jerusalem where it is just like every other city - it's got traffic and pollution and pickpockets. 

There is typically a build-up.  Through the day, this tourist becomes more anti-social. They become more agitated. And then the extent of psychosis blows up - they start ripping up the sheets of their hotel/hostel bed to make their own togas (curiously every recorded case has a white toga. It is always white). And then the tourist starts marching towards one of the holy places (e.g. the Western Wall), along the way chanting out religious verses or in tongues. They then start delivering sermons, sometimes role-playing as a figure from holy scripture. And the sermon almost always involves preaching about the need for Jerusalem to go back to a simpler way of life. It seems that people who are jet-lagged and sleep-deprived have a higher chance of getting Jerusalem Syndrome. Mostly, the affected patient recovers from Jerusalem Syndrome after they leave Jerusalem, and it never reoccurs again. There is some debate on whether only those with some existing psychiatric disorder can be struck down by Jerusalem Syndrome, although the common consensus is that it can trigger regardless of a pre-existing condition or not.

There are other versions of the location-triggered syndromes like the Jerusalem Syndrome, the most famous being the Stendhal syndrome, which can only trigger in Florence (and again only on first-time tourists). Other versions include the Paris Syndrome and the White House Syndrome. 

More in the video below. The video is 5 minutes long.

bottom of page